I watched the whole debate last night on ABC, and I was reminded of one of those movies where the young protagonist — a boxer, a fighter pilot, or what have you — takes on the bad guys and gets the shit kicked out of him early on, only to have him come back and win in the last reel. Last night was the early part.
Barack Obama got his head handed to him in the first half of last night’s forum, and he showed moments of hesitancy and exasperation. I suppose that came from the fact that he probably spent most of the time preparing to answer substantive questions and he ended up getting asked about his gaffes, his flag pin, and his acquaintance with an old hippie anarchist that lives in Chicago.
David Brooks defends the line of questions, saying “We may not like it, but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall. Remember how George H.W. Bush toured flag factories to expose Michael Dukakis. It’s legitimate to see how the candidates will respond to these sorts of symbolic issues.” Well, okay, then; let’s all ask John McCain if he believes, as does one of his endorsers, John Hagee, that the Catholic Church is the “great whore,” and did Mr. McCain really refer to his wife Cindy a trollop and a cunt? No, Mr. Brooks, these are the kind of symbolic issues and questions that make people cynical about politics and why we’re lucky to get a 50% voter turnout on Election Day: none of these issues have anything to do with the issues that matter to them like education, health care and how people making $10 an hour are going to pay for $4 a gallon gas.
For what it’s worth, last night’s crapfest probably came too late to make a difference in the Pennsylvania primary, so what harm would there have been if both candidates had turned to Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopolous and said something along the lines of “Wow, that really was the stupidest question I’ve ever heard.”